Skein, which bowed in 2003 and is produced by BBC Worldwide Prods., follows hosts and style experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly as they transform the fashion-challenged into into more confident, well-dressed people. TLC format is based on a U.K. version that began airing on the BBC Two in 2001.
Format has been exported to foreign territories including Mexico, Italy and Argentina.
The early 2000s saw the launch of several well-received, feel-good makeover shows whose premises were surprising before-and-afters paired with an emphasis on inner confidence. Just months after TLC launched the Stateside version of “What Not To Wear,” Bravo debuted its own makeover series, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” which gained serious traction in pop culture and broke boundaries in TV.
ABC’s “Extreme Makeover” bowed on the Alphabet in 2002, broadcasting four seasons that highlighted plastic surgery makeovers before spawning a spinoff, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” 2004 saw the launch of makeover programs “Ambush Makeover” on Style and even “Pimp My Ride” on MTV, which, while focused on sprucing up beater cars, also spotlighted the inner confidence that can result from external change. Peacock’s “The Biggest Loser” was introduced to American auds in 2004 as well, bringing makeover shows out of their usual bottle episode format and into series form with emotional arcs maintained throughout each season, instead of an hourlong episode.
Today, makeover shows in the reality space center frequently on struggling businesses (“Hotel Impossible” and “Bar Rescue”), reflecting the plight of small biz America while still maintaining their feel-good (and useful) tone.
But it was “What Not To Wear” that served as a trailblazer at the beginning of this unscripted trend, bringing tears of joy to participants who gained a renewed self-image through the transformations. What’s more, makeover shows like “WNTW” spawn lifestyle advice that can be monetized into branding opportunities with books, sponsorships, appearances and social media initiatives. Program, which is TLC’s longest running primetime series, helped propel the careers of London and Kelly, both of whom had logged years in the magazine biz.
“When I got the job,” Kelly said, “I told everyone I knew that we’d probably do ten episodes, get canceled and I’d go crawling back to my old job in magazine publishing. So, I’m more surprised than anyone that we’ve lasted this long.”
Since the show’s debut, London has served as brand ambassador for companies including Pantene, Dr. Scholl’s and Lee. Kelly has penned numerous books during “What Not To Wear’s” run (including one with London titled “Dress Your Best”), and in 2011 was tapped as a co-host for ABC’s “The Chew.”
“At first I thought the essence of the show was making snarky remarks about people’s outfits,” Kelly stated. “But as it turns out, ‘WNTW’ is about taking stock of who you are and communicating that non-verbally to the rest of the world. That’s incredibly empowering.”
Like Kelly, London feels the show has been a life-changing experience.
“I’ve learned so much from all of our contributors over the years,” said the stylista of those featured on “What Not To Wear.” “I hope we touched them as much as they touched me…It feels like the end of an era and I look forward to my next chapter.”
Other on-air personalities from the program have seen career boosts from “What Not To Wear.” Resident makeup artist Carmindy, for example, launched a makeup line with Sally Hansen during the TLC show’s run.